I am admittedly a fan of 2007’s Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. I really enjoyed the characters, the innovative online mode and most of all, the locales. When I heard IO was doing a sequel I had high hopes that they would fix a lot of the problems the original game suffered from, while still retaining all of what made the original such a unique experience. Dog Days offers a number of improvements over the original game, but with less focus on locales and a criminally short campaign, this sequel isn’t quite the upgrade we were hoping for.
Dog Days takes place over a 48-hour period in Shanghai China. Lynch has ended up here and seems to be living a semi-normal life. An arms deal arises and who better to bring in to the mix but his old pal Kane. From here you transcend into a whirlwind of mayhem that spans two days of action that feels at home in just about any mindless action movie. What is unique to the way the single-player game plays out is the presentation. The entire game feels like you are viewing it through the eyes of a cameraman following the duo around Shanghai with a handheld camera.
At first it is kind of disorienting. When you run the camera shakes around wildly making navigation a little tricky. However, once you get accustomed to the style it is absolutely engrossing. This is one of the most original ways to present a game I have come across in all my years as a gamer. It reminded me of an episode of Cops where headshots are blurred out by pixilated blocks and explosions rock the screen complete with distortion and slowdown (on purpose of course).
Once again I also really like the characters in the game. Kane and Lynch are truly a duo unlike any other. Sure they are criminals, but you can’t help but like their in-game chatter. My biggest gripe is that over the course of the extremely short campaign, I finished it in around four hours, the locales and objectives were not quite as diverse as the first game. In Dead Men you were tasked with kidnapping a boss of a night club, performing a bank heist and even planning a prison break. With Dog Days you spend most of your time roaming through streets, taking cover and mowing down bad guys.
Now as long as you know what you are getting into there is nothing wrong with a straight-up shooter now and again. In fact I felt the campaign was the perfect length for this type of game. Actually the last few missions really felt like they were dragging because it was mindless moving from cover to cover without the thrill of some of the earlier encounters. But if you grow tired of tedium the campaign may not sit well with you. Outside of a few missions there is not much variety within the game. There are no silly trinkets to collect or areas to explore; this is a straight-forward shooter that never changes pace. The only exceptions throughout the campaign are a vehicle segment towards the end of the game, and the uncomfortable section where you are running around in the nude covered in box cutter wounds.
Sure the campaign is short, but at least now you can play it online. Once again though, it feels as if this mode was rushed for the sake of inclusion. It is worth mentioning that throughout the game you can only play as Lynch for the majority of the story. Co-op play involves you starting a game, inviting a friend and selecting a chapter. Sounds all standard fare, but the quirks really hamper the experience. If your friend decides to drop out or gets dropped from the game, it is game over; for you both. Your friend can also not join your game mid-level. These annoyances are not too terrible considering most levels are fairly short, but the execution definitely leaves something to be desired.
Fragile Alliance makes a return and is by far the best part of this package. IO has added a plethora of new modes as well as an offline version called Arcade mode where you can tackle this innovative take on multi-player with AI bots. If you are unfamiliar with the mode it mixes cooperative and competitive multi-player by forcing players to work together to collect the loot, but also keeping everyone on their toes in case someone decides to get greedy and try and steal from the other players. It is an intense experience, especially when you get a good group of players going.
In addition to the traditional mode IO has added two new modes that spice up the action. Cops and Robbers is exactly what it sounds like with some added tweaks. Players can respawn as the crooks attempt to steal and collect the loot, while cops attempt to stop them. Cops also get a kick-back on all money they recover. The most amazing new addition though is Undercover Cop. Basically this is Fragile Alliance with a twist. The premise is the same but one of the criminals is chosen as the cop at the beginning of the game. No one knows except that person and it keeps everyone on their toes. The catch is that the cop will not be labeled a traitor for killing the other players, but he must wait until the crime is committed before taking anyone out. This mode invokes some serious tension among players and makes for some truly fantastic online play.
The online is definitely the highlight of the entire package, but my main concern is how long there will be a healthy amount of players online. Our matches ran relatively smooth with only some minor teleporting lag from time to time, but it was still challenging to find matches at times, even after the game released to the public. Here is to hoping that a dedicated group of players keep this alive, because we certainly need more innovation in the online arena.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review the presentation and visual style really is top-notch. The whole shaky-cam motif works so well that you can’t help but appreciate it. I love when explosions rattle the display, and the pixilated censors may seem lame, but they really do add to the experience. The washed out colors create a truly gritty environment which fits the mood of the game perfectly. If the shaky-cam becomes too much when you are running you can turn it off, but you cannot turn off the gritty camera filter. The story moves along at a decent clip and the voice acting is well done even if the dialogue can be ridiculous at times. Overall the game is definitely one of the more cinematic experiences I have played in recent memory and I cannot stress enough how cool the shaky-cam feel is.
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a solid sequel with an awesome visual style and great online modes. The short campaign is definitely a disappointment, but it is still a good ride. I wish the game had focused more on interesting locales and elements like the first game, although the improved combat is definitely appreciated. If you loved the first game Dog Days is worth checking out. The online package is worth the price of admission alone, but if you are only interested in the single-player portion you may be better off with a weekend rental.
Review copy provided by publisher.